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what's making me happy this week 08.11.13:

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photos
1. vintage saab station wagon
2. Finnegan enjoying his clean sheets
3. drying basil

The week had its ups and downs, moments of contentment and moments of discontent.

Some of the little things that made me happy this week:

1. Oh making me happy is this vintage Saab station wagon I saw in the shopping center parking lot. The owner told me it has a rear-facing pull down back seat, like this.

2. Finnegan makes me happy because he is cute, but he also annoys me. He would not move when I was making the bed, so I had to try to work around him, and the clean sheets were not clean for long…so much dog hair. Ugh.

3. Freezing basil makes me happy. I wash it, pat it dry with paper towels, then air dry it on waxed paper on a cookie sheet. When it’s dry, I roll up the wax paper and put it in a plastic bag and freeze for a day in the winter when I am in desperate need of some frozen summer.

4. The AV club’s undercover video series make me happy. They put together a list of 100 songs and invited bands to pick a song from the list to cover. I love the unexpected pairings.

Who knew a Journey song could sound so…true and lovely. Thank you Clem Snide for this version of Journey’s Faithfully (except not for the whistling. No thanks for that. Ouch.)

Forward to 1:28 in the video to get past the jibber jabber.

Again, I’m sorry about the whistling at the end of the song and the way the whistlers crawl into the shot to take a Tim Tebow pose and whistle off key while earnestly looking into each other’s eyes. What?! No. Nope.

5. I also love the Clientele covering MIA’s Paper Planes in the same series. (I like MIAs version too). No need to skip the jibber jabber on this one. Alasdair MacLean is adorable, as is his humility.

6. Did you read Geeorg Saunder’s Commencement Speech at Syracuse University, recently published in the New York Times? The basic message: err in the direction of kindness.

Have you read him? When he was on the cover the NYT magazine being hailed as the greatest american writer, I was skeptical. So I read Saunder’s, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. I am still unwilling to say Saunder’s is the best American writer. Not because he is or isn’t, just because…who can say? Who gets to decide? But I am willing to say, he’s really good. Read him.

7. I love learning new kitchen tips. I never knew this easy way to cut basil into strips for topping my pasta and pizza: chiffonade Mais oui!

And I like this method for cleaning a cast iron skillet.

8. You have likely seen this already, but for those who haven’t, have fun being amazed at Roomba Shark Cat: http://www.tastefullyoffensive.com/2013/08/shark-cat-cleans-kitchen.html

Hope these help you ride out your own moments of discontent this week!

motawi tileworks, ann arbor

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I have been aware of Ann Arbor’s Motawi Tileworks for years, and thought I was familiar with their work. But I have also confused them with Pewabic Tile/Pottery of Detroit. Perhaps because Newal (pronounced somewhat like Noelle, I think). Motawi trained, after art school, at Pewabic.

I associated Motawi with earth tones, trees, landscapes and was so surprised when I looked at their tiles on their website. Motawi is so much more. Their colors are often vivid and I learned last week that they experiment with new palettes often. They have partnerships with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Charley Harper, Yoshiko Yamamoto and with Louis Comfort Tiffany design.

Most of their designs are original, such as this swallowtail, this koi pond, and this tile titled, “tropicana.” I love the tiny black birds.

Motawi sells installation tiles as well as gift tiles (that include an indent in the back for hanging). They also have a weekly 11am tour, which my friend Cath and I attended last week. The tour was wonderful and included the history of Motawi, as well as the Motawi Tilemaking process, and ended in the “seconds” section where prices are greatly reduced (seem to be 50% off).

I was surprised to see how many different people work on each and every Motawi tile. I counted 6 from start to finish, and that doesn’t include the design work.

I really loved the amazing tile fireplace pictured above. It was designed for, and installed at, an Architectural Digest conference.

Our tour was a little crowded with about 15 people, but we were told summer tours are usually quite full, with many out of town visitors in each group.

It was fun to get out and learn more about my this local business that produces nationally known tiles, and to see an artist making a living at her craft.

I did not end up buying any tiles; there were just too many to choose from and I have to decide where I want to hang them. Cath purchased the tree tile pictured above.

I can’t wait to visit the gift shop, and the seconds shop, again soon!

My photos don’t do the tiles justice. I think the best photos are on the Motawi Tile facebook page. Or, even better, you can see Motawi tiles up close and in person at galleries all over the US. See their list of locations here.

If you’re interested in more information on Nawal Motawi, read this great Ann Arbor Observer article from 2011. (It includes a cautionary business tale.)

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photos:
1) my brother and his son
2) my dear friend cath
3) my son who does not like me to post photos of him, ever, and who agreed to let me post this because he said i guilt tripped him…i don’t think i did

I looked forward to July with happy anticipation, and enjoyed it so much while it was here…here so briefly…and now it is gone. I feel the same way about my trip to see my brother’s family in Virginia, my son’s 16th birthday, and my visit with my dear friend Cath.

All lovely, and brief and gone.

It sometimes scares me how quickly time passes. It is worse as I age.

Sitting here alone at my dining room table, I am feeling a little down. Two more years with my son. Just two. It makes my heart hurt.

Thank goodness for comic relief from my melancholy thoughts…my neighbor just passed by dragging down the sidewalk her ugliest, creepiest dog ever. It’s such a sorry sight. It always makes me laugh…and SHIVER. Someday I will take a photo of it on the sly and will post it here for you to judge for yourself.

Goodbye sweet July.

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08.03.13 whats making me happy this week

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photos:
1. first tomatoes
2. photo my daughter used for a screen saver…on my unsuspecting husband’s laptop.
3. finnegan cuddling up with our smelly shoes
4. my sister’s handwritten (love) recipe and the last of her bean and rice salad
5. cornflake marshmallow cookies
6. hibiscus
7. mid century library staircase
8. dr. who phonebox cake

What a week! Home from a trip to visit my brother’s family in Virginia, my son’s 16th birthday and too short visit from my dear friend Cathy. In addition to all of that BIG happiness, here are some little things that are making me happy thing week:

1. Our first tomatoes from our garden make me happy!

2. My daughter, who makes me laugh a lot, makes me happy. (Also we fight a lot.) You can see (above) the kind of desktop photos she puts on any unattended laptops when she has the chance. She was recently sitting across from me as we both “worked” on our laptops. She laughed aloud and said ‘This meme reminds me of you.‘I tried to login to my iPad, turns out it was an etch a sketch and I don’t even own an iPad, also, I’m out of wine.’”
Do you think I’m a good role model?

3. My puppy. He likes to sleep among shoes. I think because they smell like us. Lucky for him, my family provides ample opportunity for him to sleep among smelly shoes!

4. Summer salads. I love them for their use of produce, freshness and mix of flavors. Three of our staples include my sister’s bean and rice salad pictured above, Giada De Laurentiis’ Mediterranean Farro Salad and this panzenlla salad.

I also tried this tomato and watermelon salad from shutterbean.com and it was like eating a big bowl of summer!

5. Speaking of shutterban recipes…tracy’s Cornflake Marshmallow Cookies are pretty amazing. In fact they are too amazing. It will be awhile before I can make these again because they are so darn good, both baked and raw! I made one batch one night and then immediately had to make another the next day and then I had to make myself stop. So, so yummy.

6.The hibiscus are finally blooming in this part of the world.

7. Libraries make me happy, particularly this mid-century modern one pictured above, where I spend my time when my son volunteers at a zoo about an hour away from our house.

8. Comedian Jim Gaffigan. We just saw him at Meadowbrook Theater, near my mother’s house. He has two stand up specials on Nextflix and just published a book called, “Dad is Fat.”

9. The Dr. Who phone box cake above that my daughter made for her friend who loves Dr. Who.

When my daughter delivered it, her friend’s 11 year old brother, who loves my daughter, asked her, “Wanna look at baby animal pictures with me?” Yep. That’s how we grow our men in Ann Arbor. Love.

10. And speaking of growing men. I am excited by this new project by Jennifer Siebel The Mask You Live In, about the very restrictive and destructive models of manhood that our society presents to our sons. If you haven’t seen Jen Siebel’s Miss Representation, about girls in the media, please see it. It’s not just for women, or parents of daughters. We showed this on our campus last year to a large crowd of male and female students and there was clapping and cheering at the end by all genders. See it. Please. It has a hopeful ending!

11. These capri yoga/active wear pants my sister sent to me. At first I thought they were Lulu Lemon, because my sis is all about Lulu Lemon and because they were so quality…but no, they are from Old Navy! = affordable! I love them. She says they are her favs.

12. Something about the song Royales by Lordes makes me happy…it’s a great workout jam. Turn it up…even louder. I know I will be sick of it in a month…

13. Also this song, We Are Flowers sung by Eef Barzelay from the band Clem Snide).

14. It makes me happy when a story stops me in my tracks, transports me, and then haunts me for days after, as happened when I heard Ron Rush read his short story, “Something Rich and Strange,” from his collection of short stories Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Happy week to you! Watch Jim Gaffigan on Netflix, he will make you laugh!

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photo 111: assignment 6, unusual angle

Photo 111: assignment 6, unusual angle

photos:
1) a birds nest in the top door of my mother’s barn.
didn’t that male bird make it fancy for the ladies? i wonder if he was successful or if they all avoided him for being odd. or if his special lady friend slapped him upside the head and said, “why don’t you just put an electric sign on it that says ‘hey cats! there are tasty baby birds right here!’”
2) from under one of my mother’s many bird feeder’s. the slinky is to keep the squirrels out, and it works!
3) a blue birdhouse my dad painted so many years ago, through a knothole in the barn loft. so many reminders of my dad all over the place
4) little hedgehog feet, next to a toaster
5) grumpy, grumpy hedgehog, next to a toaster

Though I’m not sure I was successful at this assignment, I enjoyed it. Changing your angle can turn a mediocre scene into something interesting. But as demonstrated above, finding the right angle takes practice. I’m still learning.

My son says the birdfeeder photo above is not an unusual angle, since we normally view a birdfeeder from below. He’s right. But still, a shot from directly underneath an active bird feeder is unusual. Especially in the winter when you have to lie very still, on a beach towel, in the snow for some time before the birds will come to the feeder.

For my assignment, I turned in the bottom photo of Dandelion, even though it was terrible. So much out of focus. My classmates loved it. Haha. My instructor didn’t. (I posted my daughter’s superior photos of Dandelion in a previous post, hedgehog: real talk, and taken with a small Canon pocket camera.)

High angles, low angles, framing photos through things like branches, are a good way to try out unusual angles.

Here are examples from some amazing pros:
Elliott Erwitt, such a classic, and his dog photos are funny

Arno Rafael Minkkinen, really interesting use of bodies

Vernon Merritt , great photos of 1969 NYC

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photo 111: great depth of field

photos:
1) massimo vitali beach photo
2) helen levitt street photos (so love her photos)
3) john pfahl nature photos

I started writing about my photography class in past posts, and never finished, like so many projects in my life. Sigh. The class ended April. So I thought I would go back to those posts.

There were 12 assignments, I have written about 3 of them (I skipped assignment 3, panning motion, because my photos were so boring and terrible…):

photo 111: assignment 1, he is the eggman
photo 111: assignment 2, stop motion
photo 111: assignment 4, shallow depth of field, and not so shallow barbie

Great depth of field was not one of my favorite assignments, because it required photographing a scene with everything in the photo, from fore to rear, being in acceptable focus. I just couldn’t come up with a scene I liked…It was January in Michigan and everything was dull and grey. Plus, getting the light right was difficult. As I said, January, Michigan, and I didn’t have a tripod at the time.

I posted some of the photos I took for this assignment in one of my earliest posts, snow day. The photos above are much better examples. To be fair, these photographers have pretty amazing cameras and lenses…

When shooting for great depth of field, you need to use the smallest aperture (f-stop) your camera allows, usually f16 or f22. Small referring to opening in the lens, which is a greater number because it’s really a fraction 1/16 and 1/22. So f22 is a smaller aperture then f8. So confusing!

Since you’re using a small aperture, it’s best to photograph on a sunny day so you have enough light. You don’t want to use a shutter speed any slower than 1/60 because that will make your photo fuzzy, unless you use a tripod.

Or you can just point your iphone and click and be happy.

The only classmate photo for this assignment that I can remember was of a tree line across a field of snow. The trees were tall, slender and dark and in nice contrast to the white snow and light grey sky. At first, I thought it was a black and white photo, but no, January in Michigan.

discordant and antsy

July 21, 2013

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photos:
1) size 11 watershoes left on the patio
2) the cottage, looking in from the front porch
3) the cottage, inside looking out onto the porch where the men are playing a game over breakfast
4) the cottage, doggy doorstop
5) a stealth photo of my son cuddling finny as we watch television in the basement
6) too many days of this weather
7) finnegan finally gets a properly-sized pool

This summer has felt…discordant…just off in some ways. Parenting teenagers has been tricky. Schedules are feeling like tectonic plates grinding against each other. My expectations for everything I will get done in the summer are always too high and unrealistic. In fact, it feels like I am able to get less done during the summer because schedules and needs are unpredictable. And I am antsy for a new direction, one that involves creativity.

Today I am home alone. My husband and daughter are up north at my husband’s family cottage. My son is working all day. So I will try to make progress on a long list of tasks.

Hope your summer is feeling more settled than mine and that you are not, like me, feeling a little panicky about August lurking around the corner…

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I credit the British ready-to-wear brand Boden, with luring me out of the dark. Truly. I spent most of my adult life wearing mostly black, every day.

My sister was in the same rut. She realized it was a problem when she and her 2 year old daughter were lounging in their pajamas one morning until my sister finally said, “Time to get dressed!” and her daughter replied, “Yes, time to put on your black clothes, Mommy!”

Haha. Yes, my niece is brilliant. She doesn’t miss a thing.

Somehow I stumbled across Boden a few years ago and I’m hooked. Color, pattern, style, quality and detail. Sometimes items don’t work, no matter how badly I want them to, but return shipping is completely free, and there is great feedback from buyers to help you decide on a purchase and a fit before purchasing (something that, annoyingly, J. Crew does not provide on its web site).

I receive compliments on most every item of Boden clothing I wear. I am not exaggerating. I was once getting out of my car and a woman walking her dog yelled across the street to me, “I love your skirt!” Even something as simple as an emerald green cardigan gets compliments.

I always thank those giving the compliments and tell them about Boden. Few have heard of it. This is a fairly small town, but not THAT small…David Byrne was just in town performing for heaven’s sake. But it is not the most fashion conscious town, which I actually like. It gives a girl a lot of flexibility.

I shop for Boden online because I hate shopping in person, but I know Nordstrom’s carries Boden. I don’t know about any other US stores.

They also have the great kids clothes under the brand of mini boden.

Boden is pricey for my income…I’m putting a child through college and another one is soon to follow. But I do try to get a few items each season, which I wear over and over again. If you join their email list, you can get promotional pricing. I just bought two tops at 25% plus free shipping.

This is one of the tops. I love the color and pattern and neckline, but the fit was odd. And I’m not crazy about the fabric. Stiff, thin cotton. I’m returning it (for free) and trying it in a smaller size to see if it remedies the fit issue. I wish it was a knit fabric, but I just love the color so I’m willing to try again.

This top I am keeping. I love it for it’s cut and comfort and funky colors. I may get another in a different color.

I am now lusting over the Boden autumn collection and thinking perhaps college for my children is unnecessary…KIDDING!…mostly.

(Boden is NOT compensating me in any way for my praise—though I so wish they would…in clothing!)

Do you have brand that you love for style, quality, uniqueness? Please enlighten this small town girl!

summer

July 10, 2013

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1) walking to the parade we passed this kitty on 5th street. she is often there, ruling the street.
2 – 6) parade photos. i love the mom carrying her child, and her homemade sign of protest against corporations and i love the dads carrying the sweetest homemade sign, on a sheet.
i love homemade, and people who care, and people who get involved…even the beer-bellied tea party guy wearing cammo. my political antithesis. but he’s there. he’s involved. gotta have at least the tiniest amount of respect for that.
7) my new friend julien, the lost and found and returned dog

It has been many weeks since I have last blogged. I run summer programs through my job and during those weeks I often work 13 hour days, say hello to my family, go to bed and start again.

The more intense programs have finally ended and my summer has finally begun. Hooray!

I did not get enough evenings at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, which takes place for 3 weeks every summer, beginning the night schools gets out. The Summer Festival includes hours and hours of outdoor live music and entertainment followed by either a DJ with people dancing in the street until midnight, or a movie on an inflatable screen. There are food stalls and beer and wine. Everyone is there.

I did manage to meet friends there a couple of times for drinks after work and my husband and I went to one of the ticked shows at the Power Center—Snap Judgement. Which is an amazing storytelling show on National Public Radio. (I make dinner while listening to the podcast.) The live performance was fantastic. Afterward we mulled around the Summer Festival and saw this attraction from Spain:

It was SO COOL. If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have stood in line to “fly” on our beautiful Burton bell tower.

We also attended the Ann Arbor July 4th parade. If you ever want to learn about a community’s values, attend their 4th of July parade. In Ann Arbor, this is not a fancy parade. In our town this is a very homey event—there is a place for everyone. This year was particularly entertaining.

There were the usual group: politicians, nursery schools, parents of multiples (a group for parents with twins, triplets etc. they are in the parade every year), the Ring of Steel stunt group (9 adults enacting scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Every. Year.)

But this year there were roller derby girls, star wars characters, the ukulele club, a group of pugs (it was so hot I felt sorry for them), the 5 guys from the Tea Party, followed by a giant group supporting the ACLU…There’s a place for everyone here!

My daughter and our neighbor worked at the Summer Festival on the 4th, and I picked them up to drive them home just after midnight. When I pulled into our neighbor’s driveway, we saw a dog running down the street. He heard our voices and ran to us and jumped in the back of my car and laid down, tail thumping on the seat in appreciation. Poor guy. He must have been frightened by all of the fireworks and ran away from home.

That turned out to be a longer rescue mission than I had anticipated, as the owner was out of town with a dead cell phone (the phone number on the tag). Her 19 year old son was “taking care” of the dog. The dog spent the night in my bedroom. He was very nervous and so was I. He seemed like a sweet dog, but who knows…Finally made a hand off to the owner’s older son at 11am the next morning.

And now for some time at the lake and for the Ann Arbor Art Fair and the Townie party that proceeds it. A visit to my brother and his family in Virginia and a family trip in August– destination yet unknown! (and work, and housekeeping and yard work…)

I hope your summer has been full of good weather, friends and relaxation. If it hasn’t been, then hugs to you. Truly.

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What making me happy this week 06.14.13

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photos:
1. mangos
2. blik eames decal
3. charles and ray eames © 2011 eames office, llc
charles and ray Eames “pinned” by chair bases, 1947, as seen in american masters charles & ray eames: the architect and the painter.
4. converse sneaker made with lucienne day textiles
5. nigella lawson’s old fashioned chocolate cake

My son finished his exams Thursday and christened the beginning of summer by having friends over for a fire in the backyard to burn homework, and to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. (Though earlier in the day he said, “I miss school already.”)

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival started last night. Three weeks of free outdoor concerts, food stalls, late night outdoor movies and many other amusements. I noticed they added some free outdoor yoga classes starting at 5pm on the lawn adjacent to my office. Maybe…

There are also free noontime concerts on Thursdays a few blocks away from my office, Sonic Lunches, sponsored by a local radio station. UM graduate Darren Criss was the star of the most recent one. I wanted to go, but didn’t want to wait hours to get in the door of the Michigan Theater. Most concerts are outdoors and not so well attended. But Darren Criss is now a superstar, having conquered Broadway and now starring in Glee. He also wrote and starred in “A Very Potter Musical” which he created while a student here. Such a talented guy. He has quite a fan base here in AA.

In addition to a free-for-summer child who loves school, the start of summer and the anticipation of the AA Summer Festival, also making me happy this week include:

1. Mangos. I didn’t like mangos for a long time due to my experience with some with stringy texture years ago. My brother had me try one a few months ago and it was amazing. Love them. But still need to learn how to properly cut one…as it is now, my hand turns into a sticky, slimy mess and much of the fruit is left on the stone.

2. I have some Blik decals on my office walls, but I may have to replace them with these decals based on Ray Eames textiles. I’ve been thinking about the Eames lately as they are featured in a current exhibit on modern design at the Cranbrook Institute where they met. I plan to attend at the end of the month.

3. Converse sneakers made with Lucienne Day textiles make me happy. But it makes me unhappy that I discovered these years after they were produced.

4. Nigella Lawson’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake that may daughter I made this week. I was in the mood for cake. She was in the mood for chocolate. It was better the next day after having been refrigerated.

5. Have you seen these Openculture videos on the Bauhaus, Modernism and American Design?

6. Six Words You Should Say Today, from the Hands Free Momma blog. I love simple suggestions for better parenting. As my sister said, filing this one away with the other important scripts! (One of the best scripts was given to me by my friend, Suzanne, who told me to practice saying over and over again, “I’m sorry, but that would be just impossible.” The period at the end was the most important part.)

7. Libby Callaway’s home featured in the Selby. I probably couldn’t live here, too much going on. But I love looking at it. I love that she’s taken a pretty modest house and really turned it into a spectacular and unexpected space. So much to love here, the chevron rug, the closet, the clothes…though, I’m no fan of antlers, bones or dental casts…

8. Convos with My 2 year Old: Episode 3
Not as good as the first one, but it did make me laugh

Happy weekend to you!